Matt Frei speaks to the family of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead as he returned home from buying sweets in Florida.
The Westin Hotel in suburban Lake Mary outside Orlando, Florida is more used to hosting the John Deere tractor and lawnmower convention that being part of the stage of America’s latest drama involving race, justice and guns.
The case of Trayvon Martin has captivated this country. Yesterday there was a rally in Manhattan’s Union Square. This evening the centre of attention moves back down to the manicured swamps north of Disney World, where the 17-year-old schoolboy was pursued and then shot at point blank range by George Zimmermann, the neighbourhood watch volunteer.
Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil rights veteran, broadcaster, sometime presidential candidate and firebrand has turned up. Jesse Jackson is rumoured to be on his way. The film crews have arrived and Denis Baxley, the Florida state senator who first championed the “stand your ground” legislation under which the shooter said he acted in self defence said he feared there would be riots if the grand jury, meeting on April 10 didn’t indict Zimmermann.
He also admitted that if the victim had been white and the man who pulled the trigger had been black, the latter would now be in custody. The law, which Baxley still defends, was not only adopted unanimously seven years ago it has been copied by 21 other states. The jury is out as to whether it has prevented crime or fuelled it.
Fearing a race riot, or just too much attention, the local authorities have clearly put pressure on Sanford police chief Bill Lee, who has just announced that he will temporarily step aside.
This tragic case has all the potential of becoming a bonfire. Even the White House is nervous. And in the very middle of this brewing storm are Syrbina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s mother and father, grieving between rallies and interviews and phone calls, wondering why it has taken America more than three weeks to notice how their son was killed.
In the lobby of the hotel they told me that all they wanted was justice. They won’t go away until they get it. And nor, I suspect, will the storm.<–>